Celebrating 15 years in business, Giardino Gourmet Salads, a Miami-based fast casual, announced another strong year for the brand as well as a renewed partnership with the Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

Over the last 15 years, Giardino Gourmet Salads has grown from a single Coral Gables restaurant into a nearly 20-unit regional chain that is actively looking to expand in cities across Florida such as Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Sarasota. Founders Ody and Kenny Lugo, a former Miami-Dade County schoolteacher and Miami-Dade County firefighter respectively, developed their vision for the restaurant after realizing there was a genuine need across South Florida for real, simple and fresh garden-to-bowl food. It was so popular, they opened a second franchise location a short time later. After realizing there was a growing demand for their idea of Nutritional Empowerment™ as part of people’s everyday lives, they saw an opportunity to expand the brand across Florida and eventually beyond through franchising.

“As I reflect back on the past decade and half in business, the first thing that comes to mind are the opportunities we’ve been able to provide to dozens of entrepreneurs and their hundreds of employees, and the countless lives we’ve transformed through affordable garden-to-bowl nutrition,” says Ody Lugo, Giardino Gourmet Salads creator and co-founder. “The continued success of Giardino Gourmet Salads is a direct testament to the tireless dedication of our franchise owners, innovative leadership team, and dedicated team members at every restaurant that love to serve our guests. We’re extremely proud to be here today and how the community has embraced us and look forward to another 15 years.”

Additionally, and in recognition of its 15 years in business, Giardino Gourmet Salads is joining forces again with the Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation, the South Florida-based organization that funds global innovative research and supports families whose children are in treatment, to build awareness and raise funds during Childhood Cancer Month in September. Through the end of the September, all Giardino Gourmet Salads restaurants will donate  50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of its signature Bella Bowl to the Foundation.

Bella Bowls feature a quinoa base jam-packed with ellagic acid filled strawberries (Bella’s favorite), kale, walnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese and a berry vinaigrette. Furthermore, Giardino Gourmet Salads hopes to shed light on the fact that childhood cancer remains the number one disease killer of children in the United States today. In fact, nearly 16,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year. Bella Bowls can be purchased for dine in, takeout or delivery and each purchase will help in the fight against childhood cancer while also spreading awareness about the terrible disease.

“There is no better way to give back during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month than to treat yourself, a friend, colleague or family member to an incredibly nutritious Bella Bowl full of ellagic acid cancer fighting super foods,” adds Ody Lugo. “We are very pleased to join forces again with the Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation as we work together to bridge the gap between a lack of coordinated funding and the research needed to enable better treatment options while empowering families and survivors.”

Raymond and Shannah Rodriguez-Torres established the Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation in June 2013 in memory of their daughter Bella Rodriguez-Torres, who passed away at the tender age of 10 from Rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. In her six-year battle, Bella inspired millions to #LiveLikeBella and was forever immortalized after Lebron James and Dwayne Wade wrote “Live Like Bella” on their shoes during the NBA’s 2013 Eastern Conference Finals following her tragic death. 

Over the next 15 years, Giardino Gourmet Salads will remain focused on building restaurants across Florida where there is a need for fast casual alternatives. With nearly 20 restaurants open across the state and many more in the development pipeline, Giardino Gourmet Salads continues to grow by finding the right owners and real estate that sets the brand up for success while creating memorable guest experiences.

“We take development very seriously and that is reflected in the quality of our owners and the locations in which we operate restaurants,” says Kenny Lugo, Giardino Gourmet Salads co-founder. “Our mission is to be a part of our communities for another 15 years and beyond. And we’re doing that through smart and deliberate growth. That’s why we’re so excited about what’s in store for our brand.”

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, News